The Guide

Why Host A Pop-Up Shop?

March 1, 2017

Pop-up shops, now a form of popular flash retailing (forgive the pun), have become more pervasive for one very important reason: They work.

The numbers speak for themselves. Data from Melissa Gonzalez, CEO of pop up consulting firm The Lionesque Group, notes that the typical pop-up shop they help create sees a 35% sales spike from the time the store’s doors open until six months after it shutters. And for brands looking to build buzz, pop ups deliver in the arena, too. About half (50%) of Lionesque’s shops see an increase of 30% on average while running the pop-up.

Another report from J. Walter Thompson in collaboration with Women’s Wear Daily says this type of temporary retail is also a response to “frontierless retail” — that’s the idea that offline and online shopping has come together. Fewer boundaries between your e-commerce shop and your physical store mean a more seamless experience for your customers — and less friction preventing sales as a result.

But realistically, what type of pop-up shop is best for you brand? And how can this kind of experiential retail boost your bottom line? Sussing out the when, where, why, and how of your pop-up shop is crucial so you can maximize the benefits. Don’t worry: We’ll help you discover these important criteria during the planning stages later in Chapter 2.

Sold on the idea? Great! Let’s take a deeper dive into the benefits of temporary retail, and highlight a few of brands who have successfully moved from online to in-person sales with a little elbow grease and a lot of help from pop-up shops.

Why Your Next Pop-Up Shop Could Be a Big Win

Every brand has its own reasons for opening a temporary retail space — and you’ll have your unique motivations as well. And while every pop up is different, every brand enjoys some common benefits when they take that exciting leap.

Luring Shoppers in With FOMO

A pop-up shop’s fleeting nature is part of its charm — and that’s a major victory for brands.

Retailers want to instill a fear of missing out in their customers. Why? So those browsers will be more likely to turn into buyers (doorbuster sales, anyone?), and a pop-up shop has that idea of “urgency” baked right into its core concept. When a shopper worries that the handmade vase they’re eyeing may not be around next week, they’re more motivated to fork over their cash the same day instead of playing the waiting game.

The average pop-up store sticks around for an average of up to three months, so customers have a finite amount of time to visit your space and purchase your products. And that’s often enough to lure shoppers through your doors.

Kanye West’s pop-up as captured by Hypebeast

That built-in time limit also builds prestige and buzz. One key example is Kanye West’s recent “Life of Pablo” event, where the notorious rapper opened 21 pop-up shops around the world. Eager fans camped out all night for a spot in line — these shoppers wouldn’t dare miss out on that limited edition merchandise. The New York City pop up alone brought in $1 million over just three days.

Pop Ups Won’t Bust Your Budget

Whether a brand chooses an empty storefront, a store on wheels, or creates a booth as a venue for a pop-up shop, any of these options are relatively easy on your wallet. Not only is a pop-up shop cost effective to build, but it’s also simple enough for brands to prep and plan a successful shop themselves.

As The Balance points out, costs for a regular retail store stack up — and fast. Between the cost of your lease (which often run three-plus years), utilities, equipment, insurance, and other miscellaneous expenses, it’s easy to see why some brands shy away from a traditional retail operation.

Everlane’s shoe park in New York City

Every pop-up shop’s overhead will differ, depending on what kind of shop, the size of the venue, the time of year, your location, etc. But startup costs are usually paid up front and are a fraction of the total cost of operating a full-fledged retail store.

Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3

Here’s another upside for the low costs of pop ups: You can use them as a live testing ground. Because there isn’t as much cash on the line, brands can dip their proverbial toe in new waters with new products, collections, or markets.

Sell most of your products in Vancouver, but want to make the jump east? Host a pop-up shop in your desired market to test the response. Want to launch a new line of products? Curate live feedback from potential customers right on the spot. Or are you an online retailer simply hoping to see how the whole physical retail thing works? Again, a pop-up shop affords brands the opportunity to take risks, and ultimately amp up their selling game in the process.

Going From Clicks to Bricks

As we’ve established, more brands of all sizes are investing in pop-up retail to get the most bang from their marketing bucks. In the words of Denise Lee Yohn, a branding consultant, who spoke to AdAge on the subject: “Customer experience is becoming more influential in shaping people’s expectations. It’s allowing the brand to say more about itself than just saying, ‘Here is this product.'”

More brands are realizing that sales success online simply isn’t enough — to continue to expand and tap into unexplored markets, more experts agree that the future is in omnichannel retail. Brands must meet their customers where they already hang out online and in person, including an e-commerce site, on social media, and seller marketplaces like Amazon, just to name a few.

Selling offline can sometimes be an intimidating prospect, particularly for retailers who were previously planted firmly behind their computer screens. But the case for pop ups has been so compelling that even established e-commerce brands are getting in on the action.

After enjoying sizeable success online, eyewear brand Warby Parker created a series of “pop-in” shops in Nordstrom locations across the U.S. After their successful run with their pop-up stores, they took the leap into standalone storefronts and now boasts around 50 retail locations across North America. Casper Mattresses mounted a similar campaign in 2016, hosting pop up “Snooze Rooms” across North America to encourage passersby to test out their products in a larger-than-life traveling bedroom.

Casper’s Snooze Room

Major e-commerce player Amazon also made its own foray into the pop-up space. Not only did the selling platform cheekily host a bookstore pop-up shop, the brand has also opened dozens of pop-up shops in U.S. shopping malls, with plans to launch even more.

Moving Forward With a Pop-Up Shop

Sold on the idea of hosting your own pop-up shop? Before getting started, you’ll need to nail down some preliminary details, particularly around scouting out potential venues and how to set yourself up for success.

Read the next part of our pop-up series: Creating Your Pop-Up Plan